Beans, Seeds & Nuts
Meat substitutes good for the heart
by Lisa Vines
In recognition of Heart Month, this article will focus on a couple of Bulk aisle meat substitutes that are good for the heart (physically, not emotionally — no advice column, this).
And, in order to be good to the Co-op shopper’s pocketbook at the same time, this article will provide some recipes for items that are also on sale this month. So stock up, shoppers: organic Great Northern beans, organic Navy beans, organic Red Split Lentils, organic raw Sunflower seeds.
Various manifestations of almond butter are also on sale in February: crunchy, smooth, and raw and smooth, Co-op shoppers are invited to experiment with those on their own.
”Good for the Heart”
What exactly does “heart healthy” mean? Many people have a vague idea of “good cholesterol” (um… olive oil?) and “bad cholesterol” (um… animal fats? low-density lipoproteins, or LDL?) and those super-bad “trans fats” (um… palm and coconut oils?). It’s true that not only should we avoid foods high in LDL cholestreol, but we should also try to eat foods that will lower levels of this cholesterol in the blood. The American Heart Association recommends consuming fiber-rich foods, which can lower blood cholesterol and thereby reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Their suggested goal for fiber intake is 25 grams of fiber a day.
The Mayo Clinic’s
guidelines are similar:
Beans, Seeds & Nuts.
All three of these foods are sources of fiber. The latter two are high in polyunsaturated fats, which may help lower blood cholesterol. Whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds and nuts all contain protein in the form of essential and nonessential amino acids. It should be noted that although only animal foods (meat, eggs, milk) and soybeans provide complete protein (all nine essential amino acids), a planned combination of foods containing protein can also meet this requirement: Beans and rice, or beans and corn, are good pairings.
New to beans and leery of their reputation (“Beans, beans, the musical fruit…”)? Sure, there’s a crosscultural recognition of the gastric effects of bean consumption. But lentils, split peas, azuki beans, mung beans, black-eyed peas and anasazi beans are all lower in the sugars that cause fermenting and create gas. Navy beans tend to be higher on the sugar-content list. (All are available in the Bulk aisle.)
But, here’s the kicker: Beans are rich in protein. “The protein in beans is not only equal in quality to animal based protein, it is in many ways superior. Bean protein has no cholesterol, it is low in fat, and it comes with a host of other benefits not found in animal based protein,” argues Crescent Dragonwagon in her cookbook Passionate Vegetarian (p.588).
Beans contain iron. The Mayo Clinic suggests beans as a good substitute for meat, primarily for their low amount of fat and absence of cholesterol. Beans are also high in fiber. It is somewhat problematic to estimate the fiber content of foods, but in the list posted on www.wehealny.org, cooked great northern beans contained the most: 19.4 grams of fiber per cup. Basic guidelines for preparing dried beans (available in a multitude of varieties in the Bulk aisle) include soaking them before cooking, preferably overnight. Soaking the beans reduces actual cooking time and removes some of the complex sugars that cause the above noted troubles. They will absorb three to four times their volume in water, so cover with four times as much water as beans. Skim off any overly dry or immature beans that float to the surface when adding the water. After the soaking period, be sure to drain the soaking water and replace with fresh water for cooking.
Lentils come in many different colors: red, green, brown, yellow, pink and black. The most common here are the German lentils, which are shades of brown and green. The Bulk aisle also contains the French lentil, which is smaller and a darker green. Lentils cook much faster than beans. Red lentils are also rich in fiber, although not as rich as great northern beans: They provide 6.4 grams of fiber per cup.
Seeds are also suggested as a meat substitute, with the advice to try the unsalted and dry-roasted versions. Sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds and walnuts are all possibilities that are available in the Bulk aisle. They do tend to be high in fat and calories, so eat seeds in moderation. The polyunsaturated fats found in seeds and nuts could be beneficial for lowering cholesterol levels — but again, all fat has the same calories (a lot).
Deborah Madison, Vegetarian
for Everyone (
Crescent Dragonwagon, Passionate
Mayo Clinic: www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-healthy-diet/NU00196.
American Heart Association: www.americanheart.org.
www.wehealny.org (a site run by two health care providers).
Medline Plus, on www.nlm.nih.org.
Beans with Aromatics
(from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
1 cup beans, cleaned,
rinsed and soaked
Drain beans, cover with 6 cups fresh water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes, skimming off any foam.
Lower heat and add remaining ingredients, cover, and simmer until beans are partially tender, anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. Add salt once the beans are partially tender, then continue cooking until they’re tender but not mushy. The beans can be drained and eaten as is. Or they can be enhanced by the following additional recipe:
Beans with Aromatics, with Extra Virgin Olive Oil
(from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
Beans, as prepared above.
Put beans into a bowl and add the shallots or chives, garlic, olive oil and parsley. Stir carefully to avoid breaking the beans. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with lemon wedges.
Red lentils are a lovely, almost salmon color when uncooked, but unfortunately turn rather brown when cooked and edible. (I mention this as a caveat to people who buy them, hoping to create a visually dramatic dish.) Visual aesthetics aside, these little lentils are delicate and tasty, and do quite nicely as a plain side dish on their own.
Boil up a cup of red lentils in 5 cups of water until the lentils are nice and soft; once the water reaches boiling, it should be another 25 minutes.
Drain the water (saving it for a soup later on) and serve the lentils with a bit of salt and butter for a quick side dish.
Middle Eastern-Style Pilaf with Noodles & Red Lentils
(adapted from Passionate Vegetarian)
4 cups water
Bring water to a boil and add lentils.
Reduce the heat and simmer the lentils, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the lentils soak in their cooking water for another 45 minutes.
In a large, deep, non-stick skillet, heat the butter and oil until the butter melts. Add the orzo and cook, stirring constantly, until the orzo is turning golden brown — about 3 minutes.
Now add the rice and sauté it. Stir constantly. After 1 minute or so, the rice will be shiny and translucent. Pour in the boiling lentils and then the cooking liquid, along with the salt. Stir well. Let the whole thing boil for 1 minute.
Turn the heat down to low, and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the dish rest, covered, for another 10 minutes. Season to taste and serve.
Oven-Roasted Sunflower Seeds (No Extra Fat)
Raw sunflower seeds
Soak raw sunflower seeds in a salt water solution for several hours — preferably overnight. A favorite seasoning can also be added to the water: soy sauce, ground pepper, hot pepper sauce, oregano….
The seeds will soak up the water and flavors and get plump. Drain the excess water, and spread the seeds on a baking pan that has been lightly sprayed with an oil. Bake seeds in a 300º oven until done, about an hour. Turn them several times, as the seeds on the edges bake faster than the ones in the middle.
Don’t expect these guys to last very long — once people in the house discover these crunchy items, they’re gone!